Jan 27, 2010

Isaac Asimov's Nemesis

Among science fiction fans, Isaac Asimov is probably most famous for his stories about artificial intelligence (particularly his robot stories) and for his Foundation Saga. Asimov managed to knit together his robot stories with the Foundation in a most satisfying way.

Asimov included a "note to readers" in his novel Nemesis. He wrote that he might someday write another novel that would tie Nemesis to the Foundation/Robots/Empire fictional universe. Sadly, Asimov was taken from us before he had a chance to do more than tantalize us with a hint.

The Mule by Michael Whelan
Can we find a satisfying way to fit together the pieces of Asimov's novels and find a way to integrate Nemesis with the rest of Asimov's fictional universe? In Forward the Foundation, Asimov mentioned (in section 5 of part IV) an ancient mythical story about a woman who could communicate telepathically with a planet near a star named Nemesis. This mention of "Nemesis" came in the context of Hari Seldon's realization that his granddaughter Wanda had telepathic ability. If Asimov had found a way to continue the Foundation Saga beyond the events depicted in Foundation and Earth, might he have had more to say about Nemesis and how it fits into the entire Asimov Fictional Universe?

One of the topics that winds through Asimov's science fiction is "mentalics", Asimov's term for telepathic powers. Asimov first wrote telepathy into his Foundation Saga in the person of the Mule, who was depicted as a mutant. Asimov later wrote extensively about how Seldon discovered the existence of humans with telepathic abilities and how that discovery allowed the Foundation to be established. Working secretly behind Seldon was Daneel, the telepathic robot.

cover art by Don Dixon
Within the Foundation Saga there was the world Gaia, an entire planet that existed as a "group mind" with telepathic powers distributed among its residents. I'm imagining that "Nemesis" is the name of Gaia's star. How could that be?

In The Start of Eternity, Asimov's Foundation Saga is linked to Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity. I imagine that before the Foundation Reality, there was an earlier Reality that we could call the Nahan Reality. R. Nahan is the telepathic robot who first builds a time travel device. I imagine that it was Nahan who first started performing telepathy experiments on Gaia.

Nahan used time travel to go back in time and make a Reality Change. In a subsequent Reality, Daneel was the one to go to Gaia and begin his work that would eventually lead to Galaxia. I refer to that Reality, the one depicted in Asimov's Foundation Saga, as the Foundation Reality.

One of the "twists" in The Start of Eternity is that Asimov appears as a character. In Foundation and Earth, Asimov introduced the idea that positronic robots like Daneel can transfer their minds into the biological brains of humans. Asimov has a "close encounter" with a time traveling positronic robot who transfers her memories into Asimov's brain. Asimov goes on to create his Foundation Saga by drawing on those implanted memories from the future. One of the implanted memories is the "myth of Nemesis", but the myth does not include the location of Nemesis or the fact that Gaia is the name of the "conscious world" near Nemesis. Asimov goes on to write his own story about Nemesis and Erythro.

Erythro by Guillaume Clarisse
Note 2013. I've started a new fan fiction version of events that follow Asimov's novel Foundation and Earth: The Foundations of Eternity.

Note 2014. A new twist on the origins of telepathy.

Top Image. "Nemesis Roman goddess of retribution Marble 150 CE" by mharrsch.
visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers


  1. I knew you were going to say that.

    1. Sadly, I was only joking (my July 31st reply). I've never had any experience that I can attribute to telepathic communication. However, I still have fun making up science fiction stories about characters who have telepathy and other special abilities.

  2. But did either of you know that just over a year later, I would formulate this reply? It has come to pass. The prophecy has been fulfilled.